Thursday, January 31, 2008

Eskom's Economic Saboteurs

(click on image for full size)
These are the board members of Eskom, the company that is supposed to supply electricity to the economy of South Africa. They are either totally incompetent or traitorously devious. According to their last annual report, these people were paid a combined total of R35 million. Their silence and lack of planning is costing the economy billions: it's economic sabotage of the worst sort.
All their smiles and optimistic words in the annual reports issued by Eskom over the last few years were designed to hide a simple truth: Eskom doesn't have the capacity to meet the country's needs, and these people have known about it for a long time. They have kept this fact from the rest of the country until they could hide it no longer.
Take for example this report, reproduced on the Joburg City Power web site, and originally reported in Business Report:
Johannesburg - South Africa would need to spend as much as R10 billion a year from 2010 on building power stations as excess electricity generation capacity ran out, Africa's biggest electricity provider, Eskom said this week.
"We'll need an extra 1 200 megawatts every year from 2010," Andrew Etzinger, the general manager of strategy at Eskom, said in an interview on the sidelines of an energy conference in Johannesburg. "That works out to about R10 billion a year." The government said on October 20 last year that it must start building new generators and restarting idle power stations to manage surges in electricity demand, starting in 2007.
So they warned us? Not likely. The article was published on 30th January 2005, ten months before the fiasco at Koeberg, and the start of rolling blackouts in the Western Cape.
Later, in the 2006 annual report, they published this graph, showing how they would need to build more power stations. Notice how the pink area, representing all their generating capacity, is exceeded by the "peak demand" line in 2007, not 2010. It is clear they were relying on imports from Cahora Bassa dam, even though this is dependent on a 1 400 km transmission line, as well as no major failures of any of the power stations in South Africa during winter.
This graph shows the peak load and average loads for the 2006 year. Two years later we are 3 000 MW short, in spite of importing 1 800 MW from Cahora Bassa. According to Engineering News we are currently doing load shedding at 33 000 MW, well below the peak of 36 513 MW recorded in 2007, 33 461 in 2006, 34 195 in 2005, and 31 928 in 2003.
The simple answer is that we have an energy rather than a capacity shortage, arising from a deleterious mix of planned, but more crucially, unplanned maintenance and maintenance slippages. This combination means that something like 20% of our generation capacity is currently out of service.
Engineering News Online has confirmed that there is something like 3 000 MW of capacity out for planned maintenance, and a whopping 5 000 MW down for unplanned maintenance. This is resulting in a daily shortfall of between 2 500 MW and 3 000 MW below average and peak demand.
In other words, of the 42 000 MW of nominal capacity and what appears to be an actual capacity of around 37 000 MW in the Eskom system, between 8 000 MW and 9 000 MW is currently unavailable. That means that the utility is only producing around 29 000 MW against a demand of between 31 000 MW and 33 000 MW. The result is ongoing load shedding.
This situation would have caused load shedding even in 2003, and yet the first mention of any kind of capacity problem is on page 108 of the 2005 report:
The peak demand of 34 195 MW recorded in the 15-month period (2003: 31 928 MW) was substantially higher than that recorded in 2003. There was a substantial decrease in the generation reserve margin from 16,9% in 2003 to 8,5% in 2004.
Two years later, in the "lowlights" section on page 10 of the 2007 report, there is the following statement:
Eskom customers were for the second year affected by supply interruptions with two major incidents. One incident occurred on 18 January 2007 due to generation shortages resulting in the loss of 40,48 system minutes, and in a separate incident 1,24 system minutes were lost due to a sustained line fault.
On page 47 they contradict this by saying
A peak demand of 30 277MW was forecast for the week of 15 January 2007, for which there was adequate available system capacity of 32 670MW, despite the large-scale planned maintenance of generation units that traditionally takes place in the summer.
Also, on page 8:
In the meantime the reserve margin remains precariously low (8% compared with international norms of above 15%).
Bear in mind that the reserve margin went below 15% in 2004, yet 3 years later there is a skills shortage, generation shortages, and line faults that are causing major impacts. For that stellar performance the board awards itself millions in bonuses and provides no warnings to the public at large.
Critical skills shortage in management is an area of concern which has been aggravated by the higher than anticipated skills turnover in the engineering field.
The skills shortage is hardly surprising: they went from 39 241 staff in 1997 to 32 674 employed by the group in 2007, yet when the trade unions complain about a lack of skilled staff, they deny this. I guess 16% isn't significant?!

What contingency plans did they announce along with the 2007 report? None. What incentives were put in place to encourage solar powered geysers? It's still being worked out. What about light bulb replacements, incentives for solar panels, and so on? Nothing. In true form, they did nothing proactive to warn the general public about saving power, or parliament for that matter. Their silence has cost us all millions. They betrayed their country.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great blog. These guys should surely be fired if not fired at!


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